*WARNING: This story contains graphic content that may be disturbing to some. Viewer discretion is advised.*
CHICAGO -- The family of an inmate who died after he was found unresponsive at the Menard Correctional Center in Menard, Illinois is speaking out and claims the 27-year-old was murdered.
According to WGN, Michael Jefferson was serving time for a gun charge. His mother, Janel Charles, said he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder as a child. On July 11th, Charles received a call from the penitentiary. Officials said her son was found unresponsive in his jail cell. He was rushed to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
When Jefferson’s body was brought back to Chicago by funeral home officials, the family saw that his face and body were swollen. Family members said there was blood in his nose and he had a lump on his head. His lip was bruised, and so was his back, they said. Even his genitals were swollen and extremely dis-proportioned, the family said.
Graphic pictures were taken of Jefferson by a family friend -- and posted to Facebook last week, because Charles said she wanted the world to see what happened to her son. Since then, they’ve been shared thousands of times, with many commenting that it appears that Jefferson was beaten. However, Charles was told her son was in segregation at the time of his death, and was being checked on every 30 minutes, according to WGN.
“Somebody needs to tell me something. My son was 27 and healthy. There was nothing wrong with my son, other than his bipolar (disorder). Whatever went on in there, he did not deserve to die that way. He was a human being. He had people who loved him. I loved my son. His brothers loved him. He died like an animal," Charles told WGN.
Community activists and attorneys are now coming to the family’s aid.
“He died under their watch. I’m not going to say killed. We don’t know the facts yet. But he died under their watch, and so we need answers. We need video. Why did he even die in the first place?” activist Ja’Mal Green told WGN.
A spokesperson from the Illinois Department of Corrections told WGN they are conducting an internal investigation into Jefferson's death.
They released a statement reading, in part:
"Preliminary information reveals there was no trauma to Mr. Jefferson's body when he was transported from Menard Correctional Center to Chester Memorial Hospital on July 11th. It is the Department's understanding that the wounds seen in the pictures of Mr. Jefferson's body are consistent with those incurred during an autopsy and the swelling a result of the body's rapid decomposition."